Education

Randy Gardner to BGSU Faculty Senate: “We need to invest more in higher education”

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Ohio should increase its support for higher education, State Senator Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) told Faculty Senate at Bowling Green State University Tuesday. No one knows the difficulties of doing that more than Gardner, the Senate Majority Leader. “I think if we had the same level of education achievement in this state as the national average, we’d increase our tax revenues and productivity,” he said. “We need to invest more on higher education. Ohio has not kept up.” That came in response to a question from Megan Rancier, a senator from the College of Musical Arts, about his view of the possibility of greater state support for higher education. In a nod to the sensitivity of the issue, Gardner told the reporter in the chamber before answering that he hoped his pen had run out of ink. Gardner said that he wasn’t hopeful that more state share of instruction funding will be forthcoming because the state has given universities a way to raise more tuition through the freshman guarantee. Under this approach, which BGSU has adopted starting this fall, a university can raise tuition and fees for incoming students, but then those costs, including tuition, room and board, mandatory fees, and out-of-state surcharge fees, will be frozen for the student’s four years on campus. Gardner said he would have liked to have included some additional state support, so that the incentive for adopting the freeze would not simply be financial. Gardner said that Ohio has had the slowest growth in tuition in the nation over the past decade. Looking back to 2007, Ohio’s tuition was 150 percent of the national average. Now is closer, but still higher, than the national average, he said. Some efforts to reduce costs may be counterproductive “If we simply mandate lower costs without state support, it makes it more difficult to offer the same level and variety of courses and flexibility,” he said. That can mean a student not…


Scruci aims to bust myths surrounding BG school levy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When voters go to the polls next month to vote on the Bowling Green City Schools bond issue, the district wants them to be armed with facts, not motivated by falsehoods. Superintendent Francis Scruci met with local media Tuesday to clear up some misconceptions prompted by levy opposition at recent school board meetings. Scruci said he didn’t address the comments at the time because he considers those gatherings an opportunity to hear from the public – not a time for back and forth debate. However, when some of those falsehoods were getting traction as fact, Scruci wanted to clear up confusion on the following issues. Income tax would be a more fair way to fund school buildings. That may be the case, but it is not an option under Ohio school funding law. “The county auditor has confirmed you can’t use income tax to build a project,” Scruci said. During the last school board meeting, it was suggested that the district had twisted those funding rules for the middle school expansion, so it could do the same for the centralized elementary school and high school expansion. But Scruci explained that the middle school expansion was paid for with permanent improvement levy funds already approved by voters. Permanent improvement funds are allowed to be used for anything with a life expectancy of five or more years. “I want to make sure people understand,” Scruci said. “It was implied we did something inappropriately.” Bowling Green City Schools did not turn down any state money for buildings. “It’s just false that we were offered state money and turned it down,” Scruci said. He considers this myth as one of the big reasons many voters cast ballots against the levy in the fall. Due to the increased property valuation of the Bowling Green City School District – with much of it being rich farmland – the district is currently ranked 520 of Ohio’s 609 school districts,…


More grandparents take over raising their grandchildren

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Parenting children the first time around is hard enough. Doing it again as a grandparent is even more daunting and exhausting. But more grandparents are finding themselves in the role of parent with their grandchildren. So on Wednesday, Bowling Green City Schools hosted a Grandparent Resource Night at Kenwood Elementary. “We have a lot of grandparents out there in the district raising their grandchildren,” said teacher Jonelle Semancik. “They don’t know where to turn for help.” Kenwood Principal Kathleen Daney said she previously worked in Lucas County, where a Kinship Caregiver program exists to help grandparents who find themselves as parents again. “There’s nothing here to support the grandparents,” Daney said. “And every year there are more and more.” So Daney asked Judy Paschalis, who previously coordinated the Kinship program in Lucas County, to share her expertise in Bowling Green. “It’s desperately needed everywhere,” Paschalis said of support for grandparents. “It’s one of the most complex family situations.” Paschalis said in 2010, an estimated 10 to 15 percent of children were being raised by their grandparents. That number has continued to increase, she said, with drugs and alcohol being the cause 99 percent of the time. “I can say I know what you’re going through – because I really do know what you are going through,” Paschalis told the audience of grandparents. She and her husband have been raising their 9-year-old granddaughter since she was 4. The job is tough for so many reasons, one being emotional. “It’s no fun having a grandchild cry because she wants her mommy,” Paschalis said. “She’s really angry at me because I’m not her mommy.” And when parents don’t show up for planned visits, the grandparents are left picking up the pieces again. So these children have lots of “trauma” and more “worries” than most children. There’s also the expense of becoming a parent again in later life, when incomes are fixed. “And then, of course,…


School building maintenance a never ending assignment

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Chuck Martin is not a math teacher, but he was throwing around some pretty big numbers to the Bowling Green Board of Education Tuesday evening. 238 – the number of toilets and urinals in city school buildings 195 – sinks and faucets 2,600 – classroom lighting fixtures 8,000 – fluorescent light tubes Martin, head of school maintenance, said his department fixes everything from chairs to pencil sharpeners. They repair leaking faucets, problem urinals, and replace light bulbs. “There’s a lot to go wrong,” Martin said. The work doesn’t end inside the buildings. The maintenance staff plows snow, salts parking lots, trims trees and cuts grass. The maintenance department gets an average of four to five work requests per day. Since Aug. 1 of last year, Martin has received 498 such requests. In many cases, repairs can’t be made immediately since delivery time is often slow for outdated items such as the district’s toilets. “We have to wait for a lot of the parts,” he told the board. At the end of Martin’s presentation on school maintenance, board of education member Ginny Stewart commented on Martin’s dedication to his job. Earlier this school year, Stewart said she drove past the bus maintenance building at 7 a.m. on a holiday when schools were closed for the day. “There was Chuck, standing out in front of the building in the freezing weather, on a holiday,” Stewart said. Stewart later found out that one of the school buildings had a boiler issue that day, and Martin wanted to make sure the heat worked when the kids returned to school the next day. “He does his job, and he does it quietly, and he does it very well,” she said. In other business at Tuesday’s school board meeting, Police Officer Robin Short was recognized for volunteering her time to train staff on use of AEDs in all of the school buildings. Superintendent Francis Scruci talked about the…


Rally on campus urges taking gun violence concerns to the voting booth

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Earlier this month high school students, including 300 from Bowling Green High School, walked out of classes to demand action on gun violence. On Saturday more than 200 gathered on the Bowling Green State University campus to echo that message. The Rally for Our Lives, took place as the March for Our Lives events were happening in Washington D.C. and across the country. The BGSU event was organized by Connor Froehlich and Carlie Pritt, both of whom are at BGSU studying to be teachers, and many of those who came to speak were also education students. They asserted they did not want to carry weapons that they may have to turn on their own students. Megan Cammalleri, a sophomore, said everyone has a right to an education, but that was denied to those who died at Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and Parkland. “Days after the Parkland shooting,” she said, “I walked through this building (the Bowen-Thompson Student Union) behind me, and I was scared. I really thought this is such an open building that if an open shooter came in here… what would I do? I shouldn’t have to think that way. “I’m also going to school to be a teacher, and I should not have to think about being armed or what I would do for my students or where I would put them.” Alyson Baker, one of the organizers of the walkout at Bowling Green High School, said: “I’d rather have my teacher with a working computer than a gun.” The rally also called for voters to hold members of Congress and other legislators accountable at the ballot box. “We’re here,” Pritt said before the rally, “because we’re done with nothing being done.” Lena Nighswander, a senior from Anthony Wayne high School, said “our generation is finding our voice.” She said that as they discussed the issues at her high school those who were resistant at first became more supportive. Ariel…


BG school board hears concerns about taxes, safety

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   An opponent of Bowling Green City School’s bond issue suggested a way for the board to bypass more property taxes – and asked if board members would resign if the May bond issue fails. Richard Chamberlain told the school board Tuesday evening that an income tax would have a better chance with local voters than a property tax. There’s a problem though – Ohio doesn’t allow schools to finance long-term building projects with income tax revenue. But Chamberlain suggested the district could get around that rule. He pointed to the middle school addition currently being built. “We must be moving funds around,” he said. Superintendent Francis Scruci, however, explained after the meeting that the board borrowed the $4.4 million for the addition, with plans to pay back the loan with permanent improvement funds. Those funds were approved by district voters. Chamberlain asked the board members about their plans if the levy doesn’t pass on May 8. “If this thing fails, I’d say the board has failed us,” he said. Then he took it a step further. “Are you going to resign,” and let someone else take over, Chamberlain asked the board. Numbers presented by Chamberlain show that the school district’s annual funding includes about $20 million in property taxes, $3.4 million in income taxes, and $8.2 million in state funding. The proposed $72 million bond issue, spread over 37 years, will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $200 a year in property taxes. He suggested hiking the income tax would be better, since the district collects 0.5 percent in income tax now. According to Chamberlain, 89 percent of school districts have income taxes of more than 0.5 percent. “We’re low. We’re stuck in this past mode of funding,” he said. The school board heard from another citizen Tuesday evening, who said the district should not be spending money on buildings. Brenda Pike said teachers work many more hours than they…


Country singer shares her bullying story at BGMS

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   At age 5, Jessie Chris loved being on stage – even if that stage was a restaurant with just two patrons at the time. “I would literally perform anywhere that would have me,” Chris said. Then at age 10, Chris was given a guitar for her birthday, and started listening to country music stars Keith Urban, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. “I realized that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up,” she said. But country music didn’t exactly fit in with her Massachusetts school. “I struggled a lot in school with bullying because of it,” Chris said as she shared her anti-bullying message with Bowling Green Middle School students on Tuesday morning. Her message: Bullying is surmountable by the victims, and stoppable by the aggressors. The messenger in this case is not that far removed from her audience – being just 20 years old, still dotting the “I”s in her name with hearts, and asking all the students to join her in a giant selfie. Shortly after getting her guitar, Chris said her bullying began. Her classmates would tell her that only boys can play guitars, that she would never be good enough, and never be pretty enough to succeed. “It kind of crushed my spirit,” she told the 750 students from BGMS. “I heard this every single day from my classmates.” The bullying was more than verbal. “I would get body-checked against the lockers at school,” Chris said. And after school, the bullying on social media took over. “I felt like I was always being targeted just for being a little different,” she said. “I was afraid of my classmates.” Chris also became afraid of performing. So she buried herself in her music, which became her coping mechanism. Writing songs became her diary of the bullying she encountered. “I channeled that anger to my music,” she said. “It was my way of having a voice.” Chris was hoping for…


Composer Ben Taylor brings together music & entrepreneurship to create a ‘blessed’ life

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Benjamin Dean Taylor has been making up his own music since he was a young child. He would play his original songs on the family piano. His mother was impressed, and, as mothers are wont to do, she’d ask him to play that song she’d heard a few days ago for his grandmother. “And I couldn’t remember them,” the now grown composer said. When he was 8, she started having him take piano lessons “so I could write down songs so I could play them for grandma.” Now his music entertains grandmas, mothers, and listeners of all ages. Taylor spent a couple days this week in the Bowling Green High and Middle schools, working with students who were preparing to perform his music in concert. The residency culminated with a Thursday night show with the eighth grade, concert and symphonic bands each playing one of his pieces. A saxophone quartet from Bowling Green State University were guests at the concert playing another of Taylor’s compositions. He went on to learn other instruments, including trumpet. “In college I loved playing,” he said, “but the thrill of writing and having all those sounds in my head come to fruition was the real kicker. That’s what got me started.” Devoting himself to composition meant graduate school. He came to BGSU for his masters where he studied with Marilyn Shrude and Elainie Lillios, graduating 2011. After BGSU he earned a doctorate at the University of Indiana in Bloomington where he and his wife, Allyson, and their five sons, one month to 9 years old, still live. It’s where he makes his living as a freelance composer.  He works by commission only, and has a year’s worth of commitments on the books. The demand for his work grew at first from friends, then others he knew through conferences and other encounters. Just recently, he said, he was approached by two strangers who asked him to write a piece for…


Conneaut students suffer chemical burns likely from toilet seat cleaner

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ten to 11 students at Conneaut Elementary suffered some type of chemical burns suspected to be caused by a cleaning product used on the school’s toilet seats. An email was sent out to Conneaut parents this morning alerting them to the situation. Principal Jim Lang explained that on Wednesday, four or five students reported to the school office complaining that the back of their legs and/or backsides were itching. The nurse examined the students and could see nothing more than irritation from where they had been scratching. The students were offered hand lotion, since it was thought the irritation was a result of dry skin. Then this morning, the school was notified by two parents who reported their children had experienced what appeared to be chemical burns from exposure to a toilet seat. By the end of school today, Lang said a total of 10 to 11 students were reported to have the red raised welts. Most, if not all, of the affected students were at school today, the principal said. “We immediately began an investigation by contacting the distributor of the cleaning products we use who assured us the product was widely used and safe for the intended purpose of disinfecting hard surfaces including toilet seats. They did suggest this could be a case of cross-contamination of chemicals or cleaning supplies,” Lang wrote to parents in the email. The directions on the cleaning product suggest that it can be sprayed onto hard surfaces and then left to air dry. “We immediately closed the bathrooms involved,” the principal said. The facilities were cleaned again with new materials. “I have instructed our custodial staff to not use it on any surface the students will come in contact with,” Lang said when reached at the end of the school day. “We will continue to investigate this matter and will take all precautions to continue to provide a safe environment for all of our students,”…


BG student walkout draws hundreds against gun violence

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Armed with a megaphone and youthful optimism, Alyson Baker and Luther Shinew climbed atop the Bowling Green High School spirit rock this morning to take on the NRA and unresponsive politicians. They watched as an estimated 300 students streamed out of the high school and middle school to stand by them in protesting gun violence in schools. “Every student has the right to go to school and come home at the end of the day,” Baker, a BGHS senior, said to her fellow students. And the same goes for their parents, Baker said, shouting out to the 100 or so citizen supporters gathered on the sidewalk in front of the school. “These kids are about to change the world,” she said. This morning’s walkout at BGHS lasted 17 minutes – one minute for each of the students and teachers killed one month ago in the Parkland school shootings. “I am doing this because I think it’s time for a change,” Shinew, a BGHS senior, said. “It’s been 20 years since Columbine” yet gun laws are more lenient now than two decades ago. “We need to stop killing our children,” Shinew said. Baker and Shinew thought they might get 30 to 50 kids to join them in the walkout. They were stunned by the hundreds that came not only from the high school, but also the middle school. “I was in shock. I was in awe,” Baker said. “It makes me so happy to know that this many people have our backs. I was filled with hope.” Baker decided to organize the walkout when she saw footage of the Parkland shootings. At that point she wasn’t sure if the district would allow the show of protest. “Whether there were going to be repercussions or not, I’m doing it,” she said. Once the walkout was announced, the organizers received kudos and criticisms on Facebook for their efforts. Baker said she disregarded the naysayers. “We…


Hundreds walk out of BG High to protest gun violence

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Hundreds of Bowling Green High School students walked out of school this morning (March 14) at 10:00 to protest gun violence. The student-led protests against gun violence come a month after the Valentine’s Day attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 students and teachers. The BGHS walkout was to last 17 minutes in their honor. Jacob Fausnaugh likened it to the protests against the Vietnam War. In the 20 years since the shootings at Columbine more people have died from gun violence than American troops died in the Vietnam War, he said. “They walked out for that, we walked out for this.” Alyson Baker, one of the organizers of the walkout, said shortly before the protest was scheduled to begin that she expected about 100 students to take part. When students started streaming out of the school it was clear participation was much greater. The crowd that gathered near the spirit rock in front of the school appeared to be several hundred strong. Baker said the response from fellow students had been mixed. “Some people think it won’t do anything.” Still she said she expected to see many students coming out to say otherwise. Gun violence is “essentially an epidemic,” she said. Baker also noted the crowd of about 100 supportive community members lining the sidewalk near the school. School administrators and Bowling Green police kept the community members and media off school property. Baker said the school administration “has supported us the entire way.” “They’ve been a tremendous help.” (This story will be updated.)  


BG police & fire train on new strategy for school shootings

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Last week while Bowling Green schools were closed for spring break, teams of police officers clad in protective vests and carrying AR-15 air soft training rifles trained in their hallways. By this week, all of the city’s police officers will have gone through rescue task force training. The point of the practice is to prepare police and EMS to work together to get medical help to victims of mass shootings as quickly as possible. “Time is so critical,” Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick said. On Friday afternoon, another team of police officers wrapped up their active shooter drill at Crim Elementary School. While they train annually for active shooters, this was the first time that police and firefighters/paramedics trained together. Police trained to go into the “hot zone,” to confront the shooters, and create an area in the nearby “warm zone” for EMS to take care of those injured. “Our entire role in all of this is to train the police officers to make a safe area,” so medical treatment doesn’t have to wait until the entire scene is cleared of risks, Bowling Green Fire Chief Bill Moorman said. “Our paramedics are escorted in to treat in the building, and not wait for patients to be brought out to us,” Moorman said. “It’s getting our people into the building faster than normal.” The rescue task force responses to mass shootings do not require EMS personnel to carry firearms. “We are the firefighters’ protection for tactical emergency medical services,” explained Bowling Green Police Deputy Chief Justin White as he stood outside Crim Elementary. The rescue task force training included every police officer and firefighter. “All our officers are getting trained this week,” Hetrick said. “Every single one will go through it,” Moorman said. Each of the training sessions was held in Crim Elementary, though Hetrick said his officers are familiar with every school building in the city. The rescue task force training…


Wood County youth vaping more, drinking alcohol less

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Local teens are downing more caffeinated energy drinks and inhaling more vapors. But fewer are using alcohol, painkillers, cigarettes, cocaine, meth and steroids. More than 10,000 students, in all of county’s public schools’ grades 5 to 12, responded to the biennial Wood County Youth Survey coordinated by Dr. Bill Ivoska. For those who question the wisdom of trusting kids to tell the truth on the surveys, Ivoska wholeheartedly agrees. “Kids lie. We know kids lie,” Ivoska said Friday morning as presented the findings of the survey to its sponsors, the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Services Board, the Wood County Educational Service Center, and the Wood County Prevention Coalition. The anonymous surveys are designed to catch kids who were fibbing. For example, students who reported using drugs with made-up names were booted from the results. Kids who reported to using all drugs, all the time, had their surveys tossed out. What was left were survey results that local experts feel accurately reflect drug, alcohol, and mental health issues faced by Wood County students. In some ways, the surveys reveal a “whack-a-mole” problem. When local services focus on one issue, that problem decreases. Meanwhile, another problem arises.  For example, local teens have faced heavy-duty warnings about smoking for years. The survey shows the results of that, with cigarette use down 84 percent in teens from 2004 to the present. “Think of the long-term health benefits for those kids,” Ivoska said. Local efforts have been so successful, that the results stand out as better than national trends. “Rates of decline in Wood County are sharper and faster,” Ivoska said. “We’re closing that gateway.” But when one gate closes, another one opens. Vaping has seen a 17 percent increase in use among seniors in the last two year. “Vaping is in a honeymoon period right now,” he said. Many teens consider vaping as a healthy alternative to cigarettes, especially with harmless sounding…


St. Aloysius holds reverse raffle, March 17

From ST. ALOYSIUS CATHOLIC SCHOOL March will be a busy month at St. Aloysius Catholic School. Not only did it honor the birthday of its patron, St. Aloysius of Gonzaga, the parish will celebrating the Triduum of Holy Week (Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday), culminating in Easter Sunday on April 1. The parish will also host its major fundraising event for the year—the Reverse Raffle – on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. Ticket sales are already underway for the event, which takes place in BGSU’s Ballroom. Those interested in purchasing tickets can visit https://stalbg.weshareonline.org/. All proceeds directly benefit the students of St. Aloysius. Sponsored by the St. Aloysius Parent Association, the annual Reverse Raffle raises funds for St. Aloysius students and building infrastructure. Since 2001, the event has raised over $260,000 for the school. Some of the improvements made possible by past Reverse Raffle profits have included new playground equipment, teacher computers, iPad adaptors, Bluetooth speakers, Instant Alert system for communicating with parents and guardians, library circulation software, and more. This year’s funds will be dedicated to technology and new hallway flooring for the school. St. Aloysius School offers faith-centered instruction for students from preschool to grade eight. It provides not only rigorous academics but also religious studies, weekly liturgical celebrations, and extracurricular opportunities including CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) sports. The school admits students of any race, color or ethnic origin. Supported by the Diocese of Toledo, St. Aloysius is fully accredited through the Ohio Catholic Schools Accrediting Association. For more information on St. Aloysius School, call 419-352-8614 or visit www.stalbg.org/home.html. For more information on the Reverse Raffle, contact Nicole Buccalo at staloyiusbgraffle@gmail.com. More information on St. Aloysius School is available at www.stalbg.org.


BG gathers to discuss how to keep schools safe

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Teachers pleaded to be armed with adequate resources – not guns. Parents asked about mental health care for children. And others debated the value of arming a school for violence, or preventing it before it occurs. Though the last school shooting was far away in Parkland, Florida, the ripple effect is being felt at schools across the nation. Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci has held eight expulsion hearings in the past week for students who have made threats of violence at school. Some threats were posted on social media, some blurted out in the school hallways, one uttered in anger while playing an Xbox game. “We have to take these seriously,” Scruci said. “I’ve got 3,100 kids I’m responsible for, and close to 400 staff I’m responsible for.” The school safety public forum Thursday evening was held as an open conversation with the community in the atrium of the Wood County District Public Library. The room was packed. The topic was touchy. But the forum was peaceful. “This type of event could happen anywhere,” Scruci said, talking about how schools and churches used to be safe places in the community. To make sure Bowling Green schools are as safe as possible, Scruci said he has been working closely with Police Chief Tony Hetrick and Fire Chief Bill Moorman, both who attended the forum. The district has taken steps such as limiting the times the schools are unlocked, reducing the number of open entrances at the beginning and end of the school day, changing the procedures for evacuating for a non-scheduled fire alarm, reviewing of lockdown plans with staff, talking with evening users of the schools buildings about not blocking open doors, promoting the anonymous tip line, and adopting a zero tolerance policy to threats. Scruci said he has walked the school buildings with emergency responders and State Senator Randy Gardner. “It’s not possible to make schools 100 percent safe,” Scruci said. “They…